Tumblin’: Ben Sears
Ben Sears’ hustle is staggering. Sears is one of the most prolific illustrators on Tumblr, with work ranging from subtle and bizarre character sketches to warm-hearted pop culture jubilations (see my favorite, Corgi Laforge). But this barely scratches the surface. Ben’s also produced wildly diverse merch and album art for dozens of bands, and somehow also finds time to play drums in both Black God and Whips/Chains. He’s a masterful juggler of styles, lover of ferrets (his pet Rufus in particular), and downright lovely dude.
What are the big moments from the first couple decades of the Ben Sears saga? How did art worm its way into you?
My mom and dad taught art, science, and math for about 30 years. They are creative people, so they got me started on drawing early on. I always had legos, a sketchbook, and a Calvin and Hobbes or Far Side Gallery book close by. I was (and still am) really interested in the work of William Joyce, Edward Gorey, Bruce Timm, Bill Watterson, Gary Larson, and John K. When I got to high school I started playing drums, and I came across the work of Jason Sho Green. Those two things made something click in my head and gave me a sense of direction, and since then I’ve been doing solo illustration work in addition to band merchandise.
Your design and illustration work each cover a lot of ground. Where did you start?
I’ve been drawing my whole life, but I didn’t start doing paid work till after a few years of playing music. After years of making shirts for my own bands, touring, and booking shows for friends people started asking me to do things, and that has led me to where I am now.
How do you feel your drumming and musical endeavors relate to your artistic output? Is it a simple matter of balancing one creativity with another, or is it a more complementary relationship?
I wouldn’t be doing this kind of art today if it weren’t for music, and I wouldn’t be playing music if I wasn’t into art. The only difference is that playing in a band is a group effort. The satisfaction of creating something with a group of friends is totally different than the feeling I get after finishing a drawing, but the two outlets are still dependent on each other. Since I am a full time student with two jobs, finding time for both can be problematic. I don’t think I could stop doing either.
What are you doing in school? An arts program, I assume?
I am done with my arts classes, and am currently wrapping up my general education requirements so I can graduate in December. My major is Graphic Design, though.
Would you rather: have pancake hands or bacon feet?
Pancake hands, bacon is gross.
[Ed. note: Ben’s opinions in no way represent those of Pixel Union or myself. I love you, bacon. Always have, always will.]
You’ve done a number of pop-cultural pieces for Nerdmelt and elsewhere. Which television series or films have most inspired you, either artistically or musically?
The Simpsons and Batman: The Animated Series are two TV shows that have had an irreversible effect on me. The first ten seasons of The Simpsons are to blame for my sense of humor. Batman is still my favorite TV show, everything about it is perfect. As for movies, I’d have to say that Pee Wee’s Big Adventure, Batman Begins, The Triplets of Bellville, and Dumb & Dumber are all flawless works of art, and I am constantly getting inspiration from all of them.
What’s the process like designing for bands? Do most musicians have something in mind when they cont(r)act you for album or merch art, or is it less structured?
Designing for bands is great. Most of the time they give me free reign, which now that I think about it is pretty crazy. Occasionally a band will give me an idea or imagery that they want me to work with. Having creative freedom is nice, but I really enjoy getting direction from the band and the idea sharing that follows. When I’m designing t-shirts I have to be conservative with the amount of colors I use, and I also have to keep in mind the context in which the design will be. Doing art for bands has definitely helped me grow as an artist.
When you say our names back to back, quickly, it’s very disorienting. We should probably never order takeout together.
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